IBM to act as solutions integrator for Microsoft Surface business tablets

Microsoft is expanding its distribution network for Surface tablets for businesses and adding IBM to its list of partners in its Surface Enterprise Initiative program.

A year ago, Microsoft announced Dell and HP would be reselling Microsoft Surface tablets as part of a new Surface Enterprise Initiative. Today, IBM and Booz Allen Hamilton also joined the list of Surface resellers in that program.

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Microsoft's Surface Enterprise Initiative is all about furthering business adoption of Surfaces running Windows 10 via industry-specific software-hardware bundles and OEM-provided sales and support of those devices.

IBM, acting as a Solution Integrator, will create new data/analytics-centric solutions for Surface for the financial services and consumer packaged goods industries. Booz Allen, also acting as a Solution Integrator, will deliver government, public sector, and healthcare solutions for Surface devices, Microsoft officials announced on July 12 at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto.

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Microsoft execs said since Dell was signed as a Surface Pro reseller last September, more than 800 customers have purchased Surfaces directly from Dell. A bit oddly, Microsoft's blog post today only calls out Dell's participation in the Surface Enterprise Initiative, even though HP also became part of the program last September.

This isn't IBM's first deal via which it is supporting another vendor's mobile device, of course, as IBM and Apple announced a sweeping partnership two years ago via which IBM resells Apple iPads and iPhones bundled with IBM software and services to business users.

Update: Microsoft officials said IBM won't be a reseller of Surface devices. Instead, both IBM and Booz Allen will be acting as solutions integrators, which is different from what Dell and HP are doing.

"The partnership we are announcing today (with IBM) is not a reseller deal. IBM will build custom line of business applications on Windows 10 which are optimized for Surface devices. From there, the customer can purchase Surfaces through the channel they choose," said a Microsoft spokesperson. "Today this channel includes our existing partners, and does not include IBM."

At the partner show, Microsoft also announced a licensing program via which its Cloud Solution Providers (who are also Surface Authorized Distributors) can sell Surface devices "as a service" to Microsoft resellers and customers.

Surface as a service will guarantee users delivery of the latest Surface devices running the latest releases of Windows 10 and Office 365, but didn't say a lot more about what "Surface as a Service" really means. Microsoft is launching the program with ALSO, one of its Cloud Solution Provider partners in Europe and said the company planned to expand the program globally.

Microsoft is also expanding Surface Multi-National Purchasing Program with the addition of CDW, Insight, SHI, and Zones, officials announced today. These resellers can provide enterprise users with Surface devices and accessories, which may make it easier for some to get Surfaces on company-wide volume purchasing plans.